Reader Mail, Reader Mail, Wherefore Art Thou Reader Mail?

There's nothing I enjoy more than rolling up my sleeves, digging deep in the archives and piecing together the puzzle pieces to share stories from ice skating history from all around the world. Well, maybe there's one thing I love more... and that is hearing how these stories speak to the people who are reading them. Over the last year, I have received countless e-mails, messages on Twitter, Facebook and Blogger. In today's blog - which is again crazy overdue - I want to once again answer some of your questions and share with you a small sampling of reader mail, many connected to several of the blogs in the archives and some relating to topics that haven't even been covered.


Q: From Natalya (via Facebook): "Who is your favourite Russian figure skater?"

A: You know what? That's a tough one so I think I'm going to have to go with several. I have always thought Ilia Kulik was just a gorgeous skater. In terms of women, Olga Markova and Alena Leonova hands down. As for ice dance, I just loved the work that Klimova and Ponamorenko and Bestemianova and Bukin did as pros. Pairs is a no-brainer... Gordeeva and Grinkov.

Q: From Erika (via Twitter): "Have you ever written about a skater you didn't like?"

A: Interesting question... Yes. I've written about a few different German and Austrian skaters who performed for the Nazis during World War II but in context, who knows who knows how much of a choice they had, right? One skater's story that really rubbed me the wrong way was Juliet Stanton Adee. I just can't wrap my head around how any woman could choose to actively campaign against the right for other women to vote any more than how any woman living in North America today could support the Conservative or Republican party.


From Wim (via e-mail): "Today I chanced upon your recent 5 October 2017 Skate Guard blog on 'Three Belgian Skating Pioneers'. Great stuff! This happened when I (a Dutch sports history writer based in Utrecht, The Netherlands) was browsing for the particulars of Olga Schiffelers, the Dutch figure skater and one time partner of Robert van Zeebroeck (a fact you mention in your blog). Olga was one of the great Dutch post Great War sportswomen, although now virtually unknown... Just for the fun of it, here is a pictures of Olga Schiffelers as an automobile endurance rider (1927) and as a figure skater. Sadly, no picture so far of Olga and Bobby van Zeebroeck, but who knows."


From Ilse (via Facebook): "Hi, you wrote an article about The Great Carmo Circus and mentioned The Jainczik Ballet. My friends grandfather was this very Franz Paul Jainczik 1892-1966. He was married to Lucie Erna Elsa Lieckfeld on 23.03.1916, 1889-1930. She skated with him.  Apparently she died on ice, had an accident. Do you know anything about her? My friend and her brother Dieter Jainczik are keen to know more about their grandparents. Thanks."

I wasn't able to help with Ilse's inquiry but if anyone happens to know more about the Jainczik's, please let me know and I'd be happy to put you and Ilse in touch!


From Rick (via Blogger): "Fascinating. Much there I didn't know and hadn't seen. Not sure I've ever seen that photo of Julius, who was my grandfather. His daughter, Virginia, was my mother. The fourth member of the Nelson Sisters - Genevieve - was the girls' cousin. She later married Bill Swallender, a [figure] skating coach who died the 1961 plane crash in Belgium with his pupil, Doug Ramsay."


Lela Brooks with Valentine Bialas, Charlie Gorman and John O'Neil Farrell

From Carol (via Facebook): "My mother Lela Brooks represented Canada in the women's speed skating demonstration events so your article had special meaning for me... Lela is an Honoured Member of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. She was considered a real pioneer for women's sport."


Jinx Clark

From angmag55 (via Blogger): "I knew Jinx [Clark] years ago. Me and my husband/now my ex spent time there with some of our good friends! Jinx's place was great! She even brought out the champagne on my 21st Birthday in celebration of the fact I never had anything but Coca Cola while under age 21! Lost touch over the years but when started researching found she had skated off to Heaven!"


From Sharon (via Facebook): "A friend of mine from high school, Janie White Hensley, went there with her parents. They took her for her birthday. Her parents were both killed in the explosion. So tragic."

From Pam (via Facebook): "My father was a fireman, at station #28, just down the street from the Coliseum. First responders on the scene. They didn't have enough stretchers for the wounded. The firemen used their coats for stretchers."


From Alice (via e-mail): "Stumbled on your blog and reading it is a real treat.  Your recent posts on Gillis Grafström made me look for info about him online. Didn't know he married a Mendelsohn and died in Germany so I dusted off my school days German and started looking for more info online. A great photo of him and news story from his stepdaughter who says he died not quickly as Wiki says and has some very fond and happy memories of him: His grave and his widow's are at Bornsteder cemetery right across the road from his favourite outdoor practice lake in Potsdam  There's a good photo of both their grave stones on Flickr and Find-A-Grave has some links to the family graves in Germany and Switzerland. His Mother-in-law was buried in Bornsteder, too. She had a slightly suspicious death in 1943 and his Father-in-law, Otto (d. 1949 had his banking and manufacturing interests confiscated by the Nazis about the time Gillis died. Otto and his son were buried in Basel, Switzerland. The Mendelsohn family had a history of early deaths by heart attack and were targeted by the Nazis as Jewish despite their forebears converting to Christianity and had to wear stars and worse. I am wondering if the public can still skate on Bornsteder lake and why Gillis' father-in-law and brother-in-law were buried in Basel but his wife and mother-in-law in Potsdam.  Germany didn't reunify til early 1990's and so post-WWII Potsdam was Eastern Bloc and not open to them? Differing feelings in the family towards Germany after WWII?  A family dispute when Mrs. Gillis Grafström divorced her first husband whose family had bankinxg relations with the Mendelssohn banking interests?  It is very odd for his inlaws not to have been reunited in death but buried in separate countries."


From Ashley (via Facebook): "Great article ! So lucky to have been taught by the legendary Miss Hogg at the end of her career. At first I was in awe of her, but as an ex roller skater myself (and maybe because we shared the same Birthday) we got on immediately. She put me at ease and taught me with the same passion and total focus and dedication she gave to her champion pupils. Her figure technique was simple to understand but thorough and she expected and inspired the impossible. She was frightening yet kind and encouraging and very often hilarious. I loved my lessons with her at Queens Ice Rink and have some very happy memories of her to go with some very valuable skating and life skills she taught me. I owe her a great deal, she is a true legend of roller and ice skating!"


From Mint Mogul (via Blogger): "I was actually at the first of these tours -- it was incredible to see them live. I remember that Brian did a great routine to 'Big Man on Mulberry Street' that included a Tano Lutz. His edges and speed across the ice were impressive, and markedly different than Witt, who was also at the height of her creative powers."


From Barbara Berezowski (via Facebook): "Great blog! Thanks for the honourable mention! Winnipeg Canadians was very special to many wonderful memories!!!!"

From Kenny Moir (via Facebook): "It was my first time of competing at Canadian Championships and I didn't care about the weather or the dodgy official hotel, it was the great performances that stood out. Like Karel Latham, Toller's and of course Karen Magnussen's. My Novice event was done early and I was glued to every performance....great experience!"


From Susan (via Facebook): "I skated at the old Burlingame rink for over 10 years - took all my tests there. I have such good memories of the family - parties they would have for us skaters at their home, always so kind."


From Larisa (via Blogger): "I would like to give some precise definitions. At Budapest in 1963 Hana did her best in free skating and had an ovation of the audience and it's not objective truth to say that 'she didn't skate with the panache and artistry of her competitors'. As for ballet lessons from Madame Aubrechtová, Hana had been taking these lessons for many years before these championships. At European Championships in 1965 she was 7th, but 5th in free skating and became the favourite skater of the public with Gaby Seyfert. As for 'a psychologist who told her, 'If you two stay together for a long time, it would end badly,' that didn't concern Jiři, the question was about Hana's relations with her mother which were very strained before European Championships 1969. This psychologist advised her to go to the health resort Spindleruv Mlyn with Jiři and leave her mother at home. That was done and Hana came home in a very good form. He was a leader after compulsories at European Championships. But her mother came to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and when Hana said her she was very troubled before free skating, Mrs. Maškova gave her a tablet of algena and couldn't skate her program well after fall from 3R. I remember these Championships and my tears after Hana's defeat. That was a fatal change of her career."


From Kitty (via Facebook): " I remember Dennis sitting in my kitchen in Toronto telling fabulous stories. He had a great sense of humor and laugh. I was just a little girl but, his style of skating shaped my vision of artistic skating."

From Stephanie (via Twitter): "Thank you for highlighting so many skaters whose legacies need to be remembered! Your posts are an important link to the past of the sport."

From Joyce (via Facebook): "My memories of Dennis and Toronto was getting all dressed to the nines and going dancing. We were both underage, not sure how we pulled it off. There were lots of us that went all skating at the Cricket Club one summer. It was so much fun!"

From Cydney (via Facebook): "I loved Denis as many of us did ~ he was extraordinary, provocative, mischievous and direct. He's the only one that had the guts to tell me I would never compete again - straight to my face! It was hard, but he said it. And he set me free to explore my new life. I'm very grateful."

From Carl (via Facebook): "I remember the last time I spoke to Denis was in PG at sections in 1978 (I think), he was smoking the the men's change room and we were laughing and having a great time."

From Neil (via Facebook): "Dennis was the first friend I met when competing when it was Divisionals back in the day! He was an awesome skater and I loved watching his artistic talents when he competed!"

From John (via Facebook): "Dennis stayed with me when he first came to Toronto. A wonderful guy and a great skater. A lot of fun."

From Ellen (via Facebook): "I skated with Kevin and Shaun in the Summer of 1978 in Toronto and also went to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Thanks for the memories!"

From Debbie (via Facebook): " A uniquely talented skater and lovable human being. I think of him often. Taken from this world far too soon."

From Darlene (via Facebook): "Dennis, Shaun and Rob were all taken away from us too soon! They were my training mates and I was so lucky to have called them my friends. Thanks for remembering them."


From Marit (via Facebook): "Great read! I was there and it was a strange experience, certainly nothing the organizing committee was trained to deal with. Most heartwarming experience was the wonderful reception young polish skater Grzegorsz Filipowski received when stepping on to the ice. The applause lasted for several minutes, and since he was not allowed to bow or acknowledge it in any way, he just stood there quite bewildered as applause rained over him! Thanks for writing! Looking forward to more!"


From Victoria (via e-mail): "I am so pleased to have discovered your blog about Henry Graham Sharp and to read your kind words and interesting facts about my Grandpa! I showed your blog to my Mum who loved reading about her Dad and was visibly quite moved for the time you have taken to research and write about him.  Thank you so much."


From Caroline (via e-mail): "I ran across your article on my Aunt Anna from your Skate Guard Blog this evening.  Thank you for writing this!  As the anniversary of her passing is coming up (1/28), I was so glad I found it.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss her like crazy. I often wonder, if she were still here, how she would react to seeing how skating is today. This is one of my favorite pictures of her with me when I was about 10 or so.  She told me I could do anything I set my mind to and thanks to her encouragement,  I have - in all phases of my life."


From Barbara (via Facebook): "I was skating on the USA rink in Lake Placid just prior to Ekaterina and Sergei getting on the ice to practice their pair away from the rest of the Stars On Ice rehearsing on the 80 rink. On my way home I heard on my car radio that a male skater from the cast had died in the rink. I was so shocked I had to stop the car for I thought that the skater had been poisoned by one of the special cookies I had baked and delivered to the cast as a Thanksgiving present just before I left the Olympic Center."

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":